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Double blow for David Jones as directors Gail Kelly and Patrick Allaway follow CEO David Thomas to exit

Two respected independent Australian directors of David Jones’ South African owner have followed the struggling department store chain’s chief executive out the door.

Former bankers Gail Kelly and Patrick Allaway resigned from the board of the South African-listed Woolworths Holdings on Monday with immediate effect.

The simultaneous departures suggest a disagreement within the boardroom, but Woolworths gave no explanation for the abrupt departures, which came less than a week after the sudden resignation of the Australian retailer’s chief executive David Thomas for “personal reasons”.

“Both Gail and Patrick have made significant contributions to the group and the board thanks them for their service and wishes them both well in their future endeavours,” Woolworths said.

“The board has been continuing to seek to supplement its composition by the appointment of additional independent non-executive directors and will be making further announcements in this regard.”

Ms Kelly is a former chief executive of Westpac, while Mr Allaway previously filled investment banking roles at Citi, SBC Warburg and UBS.

David Jones confirmed after Mr Thomas’ resignation that a discrimination complaint was made against him in November.

The company commissioned an outside investigation of the complaint but no evidence was found to support the claim.

Like other retailers, David Jones has struggled to attract customers in the face of the rise online shopping and weak consumer confidence.

Last year’s annual profit fell 50 per cent to $64 million and last month it reported a marked drop in sales between November and the key Christmas trading period.

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